Monday, April 25, 2011

Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb

Cooking is a philosophy. For some people, that translates to “Eat until you’re tired. Sleep until you’re hungry.” That particular philosophy is not one I share. Presented attractively, good food nurtures both body and soul. Ron and I have every meal by candlelight. I do mean every meal - including breakfast (We’ll eventually get around to paying that electrical bill …!). Candlelight costs only a few cents - why not create a beautiful atmosphere? Candlelight is calming. It’s romantic. It promotes slower eating and, I suspect, better digestion. Even when I was single, I always lit a candle at every meal (All the better to pray that I’d remarry, Dollinks!). A candle’s flickering light helps you reflect on the day’s events, or - over your bowl of Cheerios - on the events of the day still to come. Lighting a candle reminds us to be thankful - not only for the meal before us, but for the everyday miracle of life.
Ron and I don’t “stoke” as we eat. We try to eat mindfully, laughing and talking about the day’s events as we consume our food. When I was single and lived alone, I listened to classical music as I ate. As often as possible, I had guests at my table. Whether you make it yourself, have a cook prepare it, or have guests bring potluck, food offers us the opportunity to bond, share, and celebrate. Its significance far transcends what goes into our stomachs.
Please! Don’t let your children play computer games during a meal. Don’t watch TV. Don’t text. Don’t take calls on your mobile, or otherwise engage in any solitary pursuit unrelated to eating, whether you share your table or eat alone. Good cooking means good eating and good eating means good living. That’s my sales pitch for the day! Moving right along …
I made Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb last night. I thought you’d enjoy making this simple, showy dish for yourself, so Ron took photos as I prepared and served it. Because we had a guest, I made more than I otherwise would for our usual table for two. Sometimes, Ron cooks. Sometimes, I do. There’s no hard and fast rule in our house. The person who does the cooking is the person who has the most time on that particular day, or who feels the least tired, or who happens to be in the mood.
Ron is rather fond of my rack. He says it always puts him in the mood. (Come to think of it, he’s fond of my rack of lamb, too … it puts him in the mood for dinner!) As an experiment, I bought both Canadian and Australian lamb racks to make this dish. I regret I didn’t have access to European, Greek, American, or New Zealand lamb for this recipe, because I know all are excellent.
The Canadian lamb was far meatier and far more expensive - more than double the price of Australian lamb. However, the Canadian lamb carried a thick sheath of fat, adding weight and cost to my purchase. The Australian lamb was well-trimmed. I’m of two minds about which to buy in future. Fat adds flavor - but it also adds calories. Fortunately, most of the fat cooked away from the Canadian rack, but it was still much fattier than we normally like our meat.
I originally got this recipe from the New Zealand Lamb Board, but I’ve modified it over the several years I’ve made it. Because it requires only minimal advance preparation, it’s the perfect make-ahead company dish, allowing you to relax with your guests as it cooks in the oven:
Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb:
4 racks of lamb, four-to-five bones each
1-½ tbsp. olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. coarsely crushed black pepper
1 tsp. dried chervil
½ tsp. dried rosemary or dried marjoram
½ tsp. coarse salt
1-¼ tsp. dried thyme
Pat lamb racks dry with clean paper towel. Combine remaining ingredients in small bowl. Brush and rub generously over each rack of lamb, including meaty ends. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hr. Preheat oven to 475 deg. F. (Forgive me, international readers! Although I understand metric, I normally think and work in Imperial measures. Unless there’s an outcry urging dual measurements, I’ll continue to use Imperial. Mea culpa! Mea maxima culpa!)
Intertwine lamb racks in shallow roasting pan, fat-side up. Roast 10 min. Turn oven heat to 375 deg. F. Roast another 20-25 min. or until internal temperature registers 130 deg. F. on a meat thermometer. Meatier cuts require slightly longer cooking. Transfer to cutting board and let stand, covered with a tent of foil, for 5 min. Don’t forget this step!
Now, Dollinks! I like a showy table with plenty of pizzazz (Unfortunately, Ron has forbidden me to wear my tiara at the table). Ron says carving these racks at the table is very difficult. I suggest you briefly “display” this culinary work of art before your guests, without setting it down. Once your guests have had a peek, retreat to the kitchen to carve each rack between the ribs on a standard cutting board. Rearrange and garnish them on your serving plate, and there you are! Take a bow! This dish serves 6-to-8.
I accompanied our lamb with a few simmered potatoes, steamed spinach, peeled baby carrots, and steamed butternut squash. For taste- and eye-appeal, I dabbed cranberry sauce into the depression from which I removed the squash’s seeds. Arranging food in an attractive way increases the pleasure of eating. More about that on another day! A bientôt, mes chéris!

Brush lamb with oil and herbs
Intertwine ribs, cover, and chill
TA DAH! Present to your guests

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